Kerryn Boogaard Kerryn Boogaard
Beverly Goldsmith Beverly Goldsmith
Zoe Bingley-Pullin Zoe Bingley-Pullin

Coming soon: a really smart TV:

They may not be here quite yet, but really smart TVs are on their way.
Date: January 09 2013
Editor Rating:

In the not-so-distant future, couch potatoes will be waving, pointing, swiping and tapping to make their TVs react.

As manufacturers show off their latest gadgets at the International Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, it is clear they are trying to make their TVs smarter.

The sets of the future will recognise who's watching and will try to guess what viewers want to see. They'll respond to more natural speech and will connect with your smartphone in a single touch.

Gesture recognition still has a long way to go though, and in some demonstrations this week, voice commands got lost in translation.

At a crowded Samsung booth on Tuesday, one attendant demonstrated how hand gestures were used to play simple kids' games.

Raising her hand brought up an on-screen cursor, while grasping the air was equivalent to clicking on what her digital hand was hovering over.

However, when she tried the same gestures on a menu of TV-watching options, the TV didn't respond well; when she tried to give a kind of sideways wave the page didn't swipe to the left as it should have.

The technology appeared less responsive compared with the Xbox 360's Kinect motion-control system, which does a much better job at swiping through menus.

Later, in a quiet, enclosed Samsung booth, the TV struggled to comprehend voice commands. The TV was asked, "find me a movie with Tom Cruise" and correctly pulled up an online trailer of his latest movie, Jack Reacher.

The system was then asked to "find me dramas".

The command "Number 3" was given to choose the third option in the results, but the TV instead started a new search and offered a range of viewing options for "Sommersby".

Paul Gagnon, a TV analyst with research firm NPD Group, said it's still early days for these technologies.

"Most interaction I've had with gesture and voice control ... it's not real great right now," he said.

"Right now, a lot of people in the industry are just trying to explore the possibilities."

The TV makers' new interactive features fared better when they reverted to the traditional remote control format, with some twists.

Samsung's new remote has a touch-enabled track pad that swiped through menus similar to smartphone screens on Android and Apple mobile devices.

LG Electronics' newest Magic Remote controller was incredibly precise in directing where an on-screen pointer should be. It uses Bluetooth technology along with a gyroscope in the controller and worked even from a great distance or when facing in the opposite direction.

LG's voice command worked well in searching for programs on live TV, Web video apps and even the broader internet.

When an attendant pressed the voice input button and spoke into the microphone on the controller asking for "Channel 5", one of the items presented was the Bing search results showing the website of the Channel 5 TV broadcaster in Las Vegas.

When asked for The Dark Knight Rises, the TV showed it was available for rental or purchase on-demand.

Another feature demonstrated on an LG TV was a way to mirror what's on your smartphone or tablet with the TV.

Using what's known as "near-field communications", an attendant touched his Android phone to a kind of sticky pad that was stuck onto the TV stand.

After interacting with the chip inside the pad, the phone was paired with the TV. The phone then brought up two arrows, one for phone to TV and the other for TV to phone.

By swiping up for phone to TV, whatever was on the phone showed up on the big screen. Swiping the other way brought out a set of controls for using the phone as a remote control.

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